Camp Carnahan

2006-May-01

I decided to see how real politicians try to win elections, so I went to Camp Carnahan. It was wonderful. I got to see how real people really do it, real candidates who are running in local races right now, their real campaign managers, and real expert consultants who are advising the folks right here on their campaigns. And all for only $40, and that came with three meals.

And now I know why we lost the White House and the Senate and the House, and the Governorship and Senate and House here in Missouri, and so many other races in this country over the last forty years. Because we believe all those experts who helped us lose all those offices that used to be solidly Democratic and are now solidly Republican.

Targeting:
It seemed like every presenter started with the same refrain:

Well, it’s like this: 40% of the people are your Democratic base and they are gonna vote for you no matter what, so you can ignore them. And 40% of the voters are the Republican base and they’re gonna vote against you no matter what, so ignore them. The remaining 20% are your “swing voters” and you want to spend all your attention on them. You need half of them to win the election, so all your effort will be directed to targeting the 10% of the voters that you need to persuade to win the election.

So how does this translate into reality-based politics? It means don’t bother shoring up your base to keep them from defecting to the other side or to a third party or just giving up on voting in disgust at being ignored. And don’t bother with the other side, don’t try to break up their political coalitions and take away their base. Nope. Instead, you must ignore those who are the most politically alert and aware and concentrate all your attention on that tiny fraction who are so terminally clueless that, in the most partisan period in a century, they still have no idea what values they stand for, and will likely be persuaded (only when they are in the voting booth) by such criteria as name recognition and how tall or pretty they are. And they expect to win elections this way.

We lost huge numbers of union voters (the Reagan Democrats) because we ignored our base. We are on the verge of losing the Black vote because we are ignoring them. All so we can spend all that we have pursuing the Muddle-of-the-Road Terminally Undecideds.

We could be peeling off huge numbers of Libertarians and Paleo-Conservatives who hate the war and hate the Patriot Act and hate being spied on, but we won’t do it because it would mean spending time and money communicating with our opposition’s base. And so we lose.